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Western Press Review: Washington Killings And The Kosovo Crisis Call For Comment

By Elizabeth Weinstein/Dora Slaba/Aurora Gallego

Prague, 28 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western newspapers continue to discuss last week's killing of two police by a gunman at the U.S. Capitol building. Opinion writers focus on the ramifications for the safety of democracy. The commentary comes amidst plans today by President Bill Clinton to honor the two policemen, whose bodies are lying in state in the Capitol's Rotunda. Western editorial opinion also addresses the deteriorating crisis in Kosovo.

NEWSWEEK: A one-man army presents a different kind of war

A commentary in the latest issue of Newsweek by Jonathan Alter calls the Washington shootings a form of domestic terrorism. Alter says America's enemies aren't always foreign, but rather, are also "armed loners" who wage personal wars at home.

Alter writes: "A handgun today, a vial of anthrax tomorrow. Our security will forever be at the mercy of anyone anywhere with mayhem on his mind. Whether he is a terrorist with an agenda or a delusional loner, this is the twisted face of the future, a one-man army in a different kind of war. It is a conflict without end. The strong look weak, and the weak and paranoid get famous."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Capitol's security system did work

A Los Angeles Times editorial yesterday said there is "plenty to regret" about the shootings. But the newspaper says security in U.S. federal buildings does work, despite increasing violence.

The editorial says: "At the crucial point, the Capitol's security system did work. The suspect didn't make it unnoticed past the metal detectors to hunt down whichever public official haunted his dreams. Police personnel were after him from the moment he tried to enter the building, with officer Jacob Chestnut shot to death as he ordered the suspect to pass through the detectors and officer John Gibson fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire soon afterward."

The Los Angeles Times compliments lawmakers for keeping the Capitol open to visitors this week. It says: "To their credit, most members of Congress have soundly rejected the sort of fortress security that surrounds the White House - the closed boulevards, high fences, checkpoints, sensors, highly controlled entry. Security has been tightened with each shooting incident and terrorist threat and, in 1994 the crash of a small plane on the White House grounds. Fencing the Capitol has been proposed and rebuffed more than once, although vehicle access is restricted."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Getting hold of guns is still being ignored by the United States

Martin Winter of the Frankfurter Rundschau says the gunman, Russell Weston, has brought the issue of gun control to lawmakers' front doorstep. But Winter questions whether lawmakers will pay attention to the message.

He says the idea "that democracy's buildings should be freely accessible by the public is part of the United States' jealously guarded heritage. Seven to 10 million visitors pour through the Capitol every year. The Capitol police force has to continually strike a balance between security on the one side and citizens' democratic rights on the other."

Winter says: "It is true that the risk of people like Weston can never be entirely banished. But scarcely had the gun smoke cleared that conservative Representatives were warning against using the shooting for political ends. They are implying that nobody should demand tougher gun laws in the aftermath of yet another bloody attack involving freely available and legally held firearms. But the question as to why people like Weston have no problem getting hold of guns is still being blithely ignored by the United States."

DER STANDARD: There are several causes for the increase of this national terror

The Vienna newspaper, Der Standard, today includes an editorial about why tragic incidents like the Capitol shooting occur so frequently in the United States. The editorial says: "There are several causes for the increase of this national terror. First, there is no country in the world where weapons are so easy to acquire as in the U.S. -- even by mentally ill people like Russell Weston."

"Secondly, it is a country where the symbols of power are very often displayed and become a tempting aim for angry psychopaths. Thirdly, the furious opposition of some states positioned at the right wing of society has been increased by the globalization of the economy, changes in social values and the election of babyboomer Bill Clinton to the presidency.

Der Standard concludes: "Even if the criminal is a mentally ill person, the ideas that most certainly lead him to do what he did came from the ultra-right milieus. Like Franz Fuchs, the Austrian criminal that used a bomb, Weston did it alone. But he is certainly not an exceptional phenomenon."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Stability means maintaining a balance

A weekend Serb offensive against ethnic-Albanian separatists in Kosovo has brought out more Western commentary about the province. In an opinion piece entitled "The Kosovo State With No Chance," Peter Muench of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung says the only solution to the crisis is for outside forces to enter the scenario and strike a balance between the fueding sides.

Muench writes: "When it started five months ago, only the Serbs had a clear aim: to maintain a status quo. That is to say, the continuation of Belgrade's forceful regime. The ethnic-Albanians wanted to find a way of disengaging themselves from this and had hoped for assistance from abroad. Now they have abandoned this hope completely."

Muench continues: "Anyone who wants to establish stability in the Balkans must maintain the balance. It is clear that the conflicting parties cannot afford to do this. The necessary balance can therefore only be established from the outside. If there is to be any chance at all to interrupt the growing cycle of violence, then a counter model must be found. An elaborated concept for a protectorate belongs on the negotiating table. It must offer prospects to both sides and see that neither loses everything."


An editorial in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says the actions and words of Western governments have been "empty" despite the recent Serb offensive that has driven Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighters from key transportation and communication arteries. The editorial offers an interpretation of the positions demonstrated by Western states and by Belgrade.

The newspaper says Western negotiators have, through a lack of action and cautious words, expressed the following to the ethnic-Albanians: "Do not expect too much. We do not want an independent Kosovo and even less a big Albania. The territorial arrangement as it is today in the region is holy. We need a big, intact Serbia and a calm and quiet Albania. So do not expect any help from us except for biscuits and powdered milk. You will not succeed alone against the Serb military power. Put your weapons away and accept the fact that you will have to live under the power of Belgrade. Then Milosevic will, under our pressure, agree to talks about autonomy."

The editorial concludes with an interpretation of Yugoslav President Milosevic's thoughts, based on the escalating Serb military crackdown. The editorial says Milosevic thinks: "It cannot be better for the Serbs. The immobility of the West about Kosovo is the best thing for us. Without any interference from the outside world, we will show the ethnic-Albanians the absolute might of our government."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Western governments are faced with a new dilemma

Julius Strauss, of London's Daily Telegraph, wrote yesterday that Kosovo has moved to the brink of "an all-out war" as Yugoslav tanks and heavy artillery attacked separatist positions during the weekend. Strauss said: "The offensive was the most widespread and co-ordinated Serb operation since April. It appeared to be aimed at clearing Kosovo Liberation Army fighters from three strategic roads." Strauss concludes that the crisis poses "a new dilemma for Western governments, which are coming under renewed pressure to send in an intervention force to prevent a wider Balkan war."

INDEPENDENT: The West appeared to have forgotten earlier warnings to Milosevic

Anne Thompson, writing for yesterday's edition of The Independent, said it may never be clear how many people died during the weekend battle because Western media and international observers were not allowed to monitor the situation. Thompson recorded the tales of survivors who managed to flee the fighting. She said: "The stories spread like a fire. Serb forces gouged eyes, burned ethnic-Albanian civilians alive, beat them, shot them, slit their throats and cut the Serbian cross into their victims' flesh."

Thompson noted that ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova urged the world to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to end the fighting. But she concluded that: "The appeal came as the West appeared to have forgotten earlier warnings (it had made) to Mr Milosevic about military intervention in Kosovo should Belgrade fail to curb its use of force."